Published on 30/06/2011
Future of auto industry From one-tonne pickup to eco-cars, Japanese investors lead the pack as Thailand aims to be a top 10 producer.
Thailand's auto industry is targeting production of 3 million vehicles annually by 2015, pushing the country into the top 10 from its present 12th ranking. Atchaka Sibunruang, secretary-general of the Board of Investment (BoI), last Thursday said automobiles are a core local industry, as evidenced by the 1.65 million vehicles produced last year. She was speaking at the Automotive Summit 2011 hosted by Reed Tradex at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Center on Bang Na-Trat Road. Last year's success was in part thanks to Thailand's 2,300 automotive parts suppliers, said Dr Atchaka.
The local auto industry employs 520,000 workers involved in everything from parts manufacture to final assembly. In the first four months of this year, Thailand produced and sold 550,000 vehicles - 55% were slated for domestic sales and 45% for export. Dr. Atchaka said 132 automotive projects worth a combined 34.5 billion baht applied for BoI privileges last year, mostly parts manufacturing. Japanese investors accounted for the largest number of applications, followed by Americans, Germans, Australians and Singaporeans. "Last year's success could not have been achieved without cooperation from all concerned, especially the private sector," said Dr Atchaka. She also credited policymakers with deciding against a national car policy in the past, choosing instead to promote free competition. "Free competition directly resulted in development of the one-tonne pickup truck as the country's first signature auto product," said Dr Atchaka. She said eco-cars, Thailand's second auto champion, is a clear example of how cooperation between government agencies can work. "The Nissan March now runs through our streets along with the newly launched Honda Brio. Eco-cars from Mitsubishi and Suzuki will debut next year, with Toyota following later," said Dr Atchaka. She said the requirement for makers to reach annual production of 100,000 eco-cars within five years will mean at least 500,000 units eventually produced each year, making Thailand a top 10 producer. "What will be the direction of Thailand's auto industry after the eco-car? Fuel-efficient or energy-saving models with reduce the emissions for environmental friendliness," said Dr Atchaka. Carmakers are now developing hybrid and electric vehicles, whose popularity is expected to increase due partly to technological breakthroughs that will bring down car prices while increasing performance.